Nurse practitioners like Hart (far right) provide care to largely rural populations.
In largely rural areas like West Texas, nurse practitioners are essential to providing high-quality, cost-effective health care for patients of all ages.
In fact, more than 18 percent of nurse practitioners practice in rural settings with populations of less than 25,000, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has advanced education and clinical training in a health care specialty. Currently there are more than 171,000 nurse practitioners nationwide.
The School of Nursing in conjunction with the AANP and nursing schools across the country, recently celebrated Nurse Practitioner Week Nov. 10-16. The School of Nursing hosted a luncheon for local nurse practitioners.
Emily Merrill, Ph.D., R.N., FNP, department chair for Nurse Practitioner and Nurse-Midwifery Studies, presented Marie Hart, RNC, MSN, WHNP, with the School of Nursing Exemplifying Passion and Leadership for the Advancement of Nurse Practitioners 2013 Award.
Melanie Richburg, MSN, R.N., FNP-C, was named 2013 Nurse Practitioner of the Year. Kendall Wines, member of the South Plains Nurse Practitioner Association (SPNPA) Publicity Committee, presented Richburg with her award.
“The SPNPA chooses to acknowledge one nurse practitioner a year who stands above the rest,” Wines said. “This person is someone who embodies the missions of the SPNPA.”
Richburg practices in Tahoka. On average, she sees approximately 600 visits per month. Her collaboration with the Tahoka community has also resulted in a public fitness center for area residents.
“We are all people have in many places,” Richburg said.
Among the many services nurse practitioners provide:
- Deliver a unique blend of nursing and medicine, focusing on care and cure
- Order and interpret diagnostic tests such as lab work and X-rays
- Diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions like diabetes and injuries
- Prescribe appropriate treatments
- Practice with other health care professionals to assess and manage patients’ health needs
More than 14,000 new nurse practitioners were prepared between 2011 and 2012, according to the AANP. The School of Nursing graduated 130 nurse practitioners this year. An estimated 128 students will graduate from the program in 2014.